Blues News

Defensive Logjam has Unclogged

Alex Pietrangelo and Ian Cole can finally see the light of day.

It seems like its been a long time coming for the two young defensemen.  Pietrangelo, drafted 4th overall by the Blues in 2008, has played in the Ontario Hockey League since first putting on a Blues jersey with President John Davidson by his side.  He has since played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, scoring 12 points in 2009 to lead all defensemen in the tournament.

Not only has Alex toiled around in the Juniors, but he has seen much time sitting in the press box at Scottrade Center.  Sitting 42 games last season as a healthy scratch, the 6'4” 210 lb. defenseman waited until January 6 to be sent back to the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL.  He was then traded to the Barrie Colts, who went all the way to the OHL Championship to fall at the hands of the Windsor Spitfire.  Pietrangelo added two goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games.

But Pietrangelo is not the only one who has his sights on being a member of the Blues in 2010-11.   Notre Dame's Ian Cole has been clawing at the metaphoric cage to break free and be in the Blues' lineup, and now he may have his chance.  The 6'2” 218 lb. defenseman had flawlessly shut down top offenses in NCAA hockey for three years, then put on a good debut in nine games in Peoria at the end of last season.  Now he is looking to do the same in the NHL.

Cole once described himself as a “pretty solid two-way defensemen who’s pretty solid in his own end... intense, and plays with an edge” during a NHL-Network special in 2009.  He may not be far off from the truth.  

Being selected as a First-Team All-Star in the 2009 NCAA West, Cole adds grit to an already well-structured game.  He reads the play as well as the rest, and can really line up opponents for monstrous hits.  Jarmo Kekalainen, the man who drafted Cole 18th overall for St. Louis in 2007, had only great things to say about the 21-year old defenseman.

“I think he can be top-four,” Kekalainen said when he drafted Cole.  “He plays hard and he plays tough and he can move the puck and he’s got a bomb for a shot.”

Well how is it that these two phenoms haven't cracked the Blues lineup yet?  

Veteran presence on the blue line has been an important component in the makeup of the St. Louis lineup, but it seems that a hole has finally surfaced.  

Shortly after the Blackhawks lifted the Cup over their heads, Blues' defenseman Darryl Sydor took a coaching job in the Minnesota Wild system and retired from the NHL.  Sydor played in 47 games for St. Louis, mostly filling in when an injury occurred to someone on the starting-six.  He wasn't the only one to pack his bags and move from St. Louis though.

Mike Weaver, one of the unsung heroes of the Blues for the past two seasons, signed a contract with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday that left the Blues with five defensemen.  With his departure, the Blues coaching staff is hoping that Pietrangelo or Cole can jump in and take the spot on a full-time basis.  

The odds of either player making the Blues' lineup have gotten better since last season due to coaching changes too.  Davis Payne will now have a huge part in deciding who deserves to be on his roster come October.  The fresh head coach proved that he wants to play the young players when he gave up-and-comer Erik Johnson more responsibility after he took over in January for Andy Murray.  This could work in the favor for any young guys who will be trying to crack the lineup.

The two young players cannot expect to be handed the job out of the gate though; there will be plenty of other skaters looking to make the jump to the NHL by putting up big games at training camp in September.  They will have to continue to work for the opportunity and not expect anything to be handed to them.

If Pietrangelo or Cole mess up this opportunity, that daylight will disappear as quickly as it appeared.

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